Vatican II and the New Code / Vatican II et le nouveau code. - article ; n°1 ; vol.62, pg 107-117
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Archives des sciences sociales des religions - Année 1986 - Volume 62 - Numéro 1 - Pages 107-117
11 pages
Source : Persée ; Ministère de la jeunesse, de l’éducation nationale et de la recherche, Direction de l’enseignement supérieur, Sous-direction des bibliothèques et de la documentation.



Publié par
Publié le 01 janvier 1986
Nombre de lectures 21
Langue Français
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo


Joseph A. Komonchak
Vatican II and the New Code / Vatican II et le nouveau code.
In: Archives des sciences sociales des religions. N. 62/1, 1986. pp. 107-117.
Citer ce document / Cite this document :
Komonchak Joseph A. Vatican II and the New Code / Vatican II et le nouveau code. In: Archives des sciences sociales des
religions. N. 62/1, 1986. pp. 107-117.
doi : 10.3406/assr.1986.2405 Sc soc des Rel. 1986 62/1 juillet-septembre) 107-117
Le précédent Code de droit canon de glise catholique avait été
con comme la réponse partielle de glise aux nouvelles conditions
socio-culturelles nées des bouleversements économiques et politiques
des temps modernes Sa conception hiérarchique centralisée et
bureaucratique de Eglise et attitude globalement négative il
présupposait égard de époque moderne furent sérieusement
atténuées lors du Concile Vatican II Le nouveau Code de droit canon
1983 réussi en partie articuler légalement la vision
communale collégiale et spirituelle de Eglise telle que la concevait le
Concile néanmoins il reste encore beaucoup de ancienne concep
tion de ecclesiologie De ce point de vue le nouveau Code seri de
reflet de bon nombre des compromis qui caractérisent les documents
conciliaires et de bien des tensions qui travaillent Eglise depuis
Vatican II
In 1917 for the first time in its history the Roman Catholic Church began to
be governed by Code of Canon Law Until then the Church had used
disorganized Corpus luris Canonici which had been compiled over many centu
ries most of it on the basis of responses to particular cases At least since the
Council of Trent the desire had been expressed to bring this chaotic body of law
into unified system but for variety of reasons had proven either
impossible or inopportune until in 1904 Pope Pius authorized the process of
codification which led to the universal law promulgated by Pope Benedict
The elaboration of the 1917 Code is only now coming under critical historical
investigation But scholars are already noting certain features of the effort and
its product especially their vision of the Church They note particularly that the
Code conceives of the Church as Societas perfecta an autonomous free and
sovereign institution the sacred parallel to the modern omnicompetent State
From the jurisprudence which had been elaborated in defence of the modern
secular State canon lawyers in the late XIXth century began to borrow essential
elements to produce relatively novel ius publicum ecclesiasticum whose chief
purpose was to vindicate the right to independence of the State and to
regulate all that was necessary for its internal order and for the accomplishment
of its sacred and transcendent ends 2)
In the 1917 Code ius right is conceived as lex law The 2414 canons are so
many norms which derive their authority from the will of the supreme legislator
the Roman Pontiff The foundations of these norms in Scripture tradition and
liturgy is nowhere discussed and the role and force of custom are severely
reduced The laws appear as simple regulations parallel in source and
in function to the regulatory norms which are considered necessary for any social
body to function ubi Societas ibi ius The Church whose life they regulate proves
to be hierarchical founded on divinely willed distinction between clergy
and laity so that the Church is Societas inaequalium in which every aspect is
under the government of the clergy centralized the authority of the Roman
Pontiff is everywhere asserted in consequence of the definitions of papal sove
reignty and infallibility declared at the First Vatican Council rationalized that
is governed by laws and norms positivistically conceived as deriving from their
act of promulgation now by the supreme legislator 3)
The 1917 Code thus articulated the rules that would govern the modern
Catholic counter-society This had been constructed throughout the XIXth
century in order to provide the plausibility-structure required to maintain identity and to promote Catholic interests modern world which had
been constructed on systematic déniât of the cultural hegemony and social role
the Church had once enjoyed As the major spheres of social life had been
differentiated rationalized and institutionalized in the State in the capitalist
economy and in the secular schools so now also religion was differentiated
rationalized and institutionalized in the modern Roman Catholic Church This
development has been called die Verkirchlichung des Christentums and the first
Code was at once response to and an instrument and illustration of the
transformation of the social and cultural place and role of Christianity which the
process of modernization entailed 4)
The Second Vatican Council
The Second Vatican Council can be read as serious qualification if not
repudiation of the anti-modem attitude and strategies of this modern Roman
Catholicism The twofold purpose which Pope John XXIII proposed for the
Council reform of its life the light of the Gospel and an adaptation of its
structures and activity to meet the new conditions of the modern world aggior
namento broke with the consistently negative attitude with which the Church
had regarded the emergence of modern liberal society and culture and challenged
the strategies of consolidation bureaucratization and centralization which had
for decades been legitimated as the necessary response to modernity
These ruptures within modem Catholicism are most visible in the
Declaration on Religious Freedom and in its Pastoral Constitution on the
Church in the Modem World The first affirmed the freedom of conscience of
individuals The Church would no longer seek to have itself given official and
favored status in society nor to have restrictions placed on the activities of other
churches or religious groups This was an acknowledgement of the religious
pluralism which liberal societies know in the modem world and it represents
substantial shift away from the official position which had consistently sought to
defend the social and public role of religion by demanding institutional support
from the State
In Gaudium et Spes the Council described the Church as participant in the
joys and hopes griefs and anguish of all men and women While it repudiated
merely private and individualistic notion of religion or morality it saw the
Church as engaged in critical dialogue with the modern world having both
something to give and something to receive It acknowledged legitimate
autonomy to earthly realities the word for what others were talking
about as secularization) which it contrasted with view that denied any social
or public significance to religion Central features and principles of developing
liberal modernity were thus treated in far more differentiated fashion than they
had been for the previous century and half
Not only did the Council conceive of the relationship with the
modem world in different terms it also transformed the way in which it thought
and spoke about itself Rather than beginning with the idea of Societas inaequa-
lium it made the spiritual communion equality and responsibility of all Chris
tians the context within which to understand the differentiations of offices and
roles it acknowledged The Council emphasized the origination out of
Word grace and sacrament and devoted very little attention to the place of law
There is no retreat from the First Vatican statements on the role of the
Bishop of Rome but the centuries-long tendency towards Roman centralization
was at least deflected by an insistence on the principle ofcollegiality At the same
time the cultural parallel to this Roman centralism the hegemony of western
cultural traditions within the Church was weakened by an insistence on
catholicity as concrete inculturation of the Gospel in that critical exchange in
which the Gospel criticizes and illuminates the various cultures of the world
while the latter provide resources with which the Gospel can be differently
expressed in language liturgy and life to the enrichment of the whole Church
While these positions characterize what was new in the ecclesio-
logy the previously dominant institutional emphases did not completely disap
pear One of the most intelligent analyses of the theology of the Church
speaks of two ecclesiologies one of communion and one of juridical structures
both present in the Council debates and reflected in its final documents But
these two were not coherently integrated in the texts which often
bear many marks of compromise Moreover some scholars speak of lacunae
and ambiguities in the ecclesiology faults which are in part the causes
of many post-conciliar difficulties and tensions 6)
The Revision of the Code
It was in the context of the conciliar event and of the dramatic impact which
its reforms had on the Catholic Church that the work of revising the Code was
undertaken WTien it became clear that the Council would concentrate

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